Government

Congress Is Looking To Extend Copyright Protection Term To 144 Years (wired.com) 268

"Because it apparently isn't bad enough already, Congress is looking to extend the copyright term to 144 years," writes Slashdot reader llamalad. "Please write to your representatives and consider donating to the EFF." American attorney Lawrence Lessig writes via Wired: Almost exactly 20 years ago, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extended the term of existing copyrights by 20 years. The Act was the 11th extension in the prior 40 years, timed perfectly to assure that certain famous works, including Mickey Mouse, would not pass into the public domain. Immediately after the law came into force, a digital publisher of public domain works, Eric Eldred, filed a lawsuit challenging the act [which the Supreme Court later rejected].

Twenty years later, the fight for term extension has begun anew. Buried in an otherwise harmless act, passed by the House and now being considered in the Senate, this new bill purports to create a new digital performance right -- basically the right to control copies of recordings on any digital platform (ever hear of the internet?) -- for musical recordings made before 1972. These recordings would now have a new right, protected until 2067, which, for some, means a total term of protection of 144 years. The beneficiaries of this monopoly need do nothing to get the benefit of this gift. They don't have to make the work available. Nor do they have to register their claims in advance.

Businesses

Xiaomi Sued For Alleged Patent Infringement Ahead of Blockbuster IPO (reuters.com) 23

An anonymous reader shares a report: Chinese smartphone maker Coolpad said its unit has sued three group firms of Xiaomi, which last week filed for a Hong Kong IPO that could be worth up to $10 billion, for patent infringement. Coolpad said in a statement late on Thursday its subsidiary, Yulong Computer Telecommunication Scientific (Shenzhen) filed a lawsuit against Xiaomi Telecom Technology, Xiaomi Technology and Xiaomi Factory in a court in Jiangsu province for using its patent without authorization. Yulong demanded that the Xiaomi companies should immediately stop production and sale of some smartphone models, including the Mi MIX2, Coolpad said.
Businesses

Apple's Eddy Cue To Be Deposed In Qualcomm Patent Battle (bloomberg.com) 34

"Apple executive Eddy Cue will be questioned by Qualcomm's lawyers as part of a legal battle between the companies over billions of dollars in patents and licensing fees," reports Bloomberg. "On Friday, San Diego Federal Judge Mitchell D. Dembin ordered Cue to be deposed in the case, granting a Qualcomm request and turning down Apple's arguments against the move." From the report: At the heart of the standoff is a dispute over how much Qualcomm can charge phone makers to use its patents, whether or not they use its chips. The San Diego, California-based company gets the majority of profit from licensing technology that covers the fundamentals of modern mobile phone systems. Apple has cut off license payments to Qualcomm and filed an antitrust lawsuit that accused the chipmaker of trying to monopolize the industry. In November, Qualcomm filed a motion to depose Cue. Apple pushed back stating that Cue's role overseeing services made him unrelated to the case. Qualcomm cited past Apple statements pinpointing Cue as one of the lead negotiators when the iPhone launched in 2007 exclusively on AT&T's network in the U.S.
Patents

Nikola (Motors) is Suing Tesla (engadget.com) 187

An anonymous reader shares a report: Nikola Tesla invented alternating electrical current. Nikola Motors is a mobility company working on a hydrogen-powered semi truck. Tesla makes fully electric vehicles and last December unveiled its EV Semi. Nikola Motors is suing Tesla Motors over patent infringements, according to Electrek. Nikola alleges that Tesla infringes on three of its patents: fuselage design, a wraparound windshield on a semi truck and a mid-entry door. Nikola claims that these design similarities have "caused confusion" among customers and stolen away over $2 billion in business, and that if problems arise with Tesla's Semi (like battery fires or glitches with autonomous driving), they'll be attributed to Nikola. Typical patent troll stuff.
Nintendo

Nintendo Faces Switch Patent Infringement Investigation In the US (engadget.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Nintendo is under investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission, and the fate of the Switch hangs in the balance. Gamevice, the company behind the Wikipad and a line of snap-on controllers for mobile devices, says the Nintendo Switch violates its patents on attachable handheld gamepads and their related accessories. Alleging violations of the Tariff Act of 1930, Gamevice is requesting a cease and desist order against Nintendo, a move that would halt imports of the Switch into the U.S. The USITC notes that while its investigation has begun, it hasn't ruled on the validity of the complaint. The commission will hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Nintendo is in violation of the Tariff Act, with a final decision "at the earliest practicable time." The USITC will announce a target date for the end of the investigation within 45 days.
Businesses

Patent 'Death Squad' System Upheld by US Supreme Court (bloomberg.com) 90

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld an administrative review system that has helped Google, Apple and other companies invalidate hundreds of issued patents. From a report: The justices, voting 7-2, said Tuesday a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office review board that critics call a patent "death squad" wasn't unconstitutionally wielding powers that belong to the courts. Silicon Valley companies have used the system as a less-expensive way to ward off demands for royalties, particularly from patent owners derided as "trolls" because they don't use their patents to make products. Drugmakers and independent inventors complain that it unfairly upends what they thought were established property rights. "It came down to this: Is the patent office fixing its own mistakes or is the government taking property?" said Wayne Stacy, a patent lawyer with Baker Botts. "They came down on the side of the patent office fixing its own mistakes." The ruling caused shares to drop in companies whose main source of revenue -- their patents -- are under threat from challenges. VirnetX, which is trying to protect almost $1 billion in damages it won against Apple, dropped as much as 12 percent. The patent office has said its patents are invalid in a case currently before an appeals court.
Open Source

'Open Source Initiative' President Interviewed by Linux Journal (linuxjournal.com) 14

The newly-relaunched Linux Journal just interviewed the Open Source Initiative's president, Simon Phipps. An anonymous reader summarizes the highlights: Phipps collects no salary -- unlike the executive director of the Linux Foundation, who reportedly received over $300,000 in 2010. "We're a very small organization actually", Phipps said. "We have a board of directors of 11 people and we have one paid employee..." But he explains their importance by citing the controversy over Facebook's original licensing for React. "I think prior to that, people felt it was okay for there just to be a license and then for there to be arbitrary additional terms applied. I think that the consensus of the community has moved on from that."

Phipps is proud of the OSI's independence from corporate sponsors. "If you want to join a trade association, that's what the Linux Foundation is there for. You can go pay your membership fees and buy a vote there, but OSI is a 501(c)(3). That's means it's a charity that's serving the public's interest and the public benefit. It would be wrong for us to allow OSI to be captured by corporate interests." The article notes that most issues are resolved publicly, adding that one big concern is "freeware" -- proprietary software offered at no cost but erroenously marketed as open source. "In those cases, OSI definitely will reach out and contact the offending companies, and as Phipps says, 'We do that quite often, and we have a good track record of helping people understand why it's to their business disadvantage to behave in that way.'"

And he's also seeking warmer relations with the Free Software community. "As I've been giving keynotes about the first 20 years and the next ten years of open source, I've wanted to make very clear to people that open source is a progression of the pre-existing idea of free software, that there is no conflict between the idea of free software and the way it can be adopted for commercial or for more structured use under the term open source."

He cites the OSI's collaboration with the Free Software Foundation Europe on amicus briefs in important lawsuits, which he says address "significant issues, including privacy and including software patents...

"I hope in the future that we'll be able to continue cooperating and collaborating."
China

Trade War Or Not, China is Closing the Gap on US in Technology IP Race (reuters.com) 149

China's rising investment in research and expansion of its higher education system mean that it is fast closing the gap with the United States in intellectual property and the struggle to be the No.1 global technology power, according to patent experts. From a report: While U.S. President Donald Trump's threat of punitive tariffs on high-tech U.S. exports could slow Beijing's momentum, it won't turn back the tide, they say. Washington's allegation that the Chinese have engaged in intellectual property theft over many years -- which is denied by Beijing -- is a central reason for the worsening trade conflict between the U.S. and China. Forecasts for how long it will take for Beijing to close the technological gap vary -- though several patent specialists say it could happen in the next decade.

And China is already leapfrogging ahead in a couple of areas. "With the number of scientists China is training every year it will eventually catch up, regardless of what the U.S. does," said David Shen, head of IP for China at global law firm Allen & Overy. Indeed, IP lawyers now see President Xi Jinping's pledge earlier this week to protect foreign IP rights as projecting confidence in China's position as a leading innovator in sectors such as telecommunications and online payments, as well as its ability to catch up in other areas.

Music

'High Definition Vinyl' Is Coming As Early As Next Year (pitchfork.com) 330

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Pitchfork: In 2016, a European patent filing described a way of manufacturing records that the inventors claimed would have higher audio fidelity, louder volume, and longer playing times than conventional LPs. Now, the Austrian-based startup Rebeat Innovation has received $4.8 million in funding for the initiative, founder and CEO Gunter Loibl told Pitchfork. Thanks to the investment, the first "HD vinyl" albums could hit stores as early as 2019, Loibl said. The HD vinyl process involves converting audio digitally to a 3D topographic map. Lasers are then used to inscribe the map onto the "stamper," the part that stamps the grooves into the vinyl. According to Loibl, these methods allow for records to be made more precisely and with less loss of audio information. The results, he said, are vinyl LPs that can have up to 30 percent more playing time, 30 percent more amplitude, and overall more faithful sound reproduction. The technique would also avoid the chemicals that play a role in traditional vinyl manufacturing. Plus, the new-school HD vinyl LPs would still play on ordinary record players.
Businesses

Apple Must Pay Patent Troll More Than $500 Million In iMessage Case (bloomberg.com) 75

A federal court in Texas today has ordered Apple to pay $502.6 million to a patent troll called VirnetX, the latest twist in a dispute now in its eighth year. "VirnetX claimed that Apple's FaceTime, VPN on Demand and iMessage features infringe four patents related to secure communications, claims that Apple denied," reports Bloomberg. From the report: The dispute has bounced between the district court, patent office and Federal Circuit since 2010. There have been multiple trials, most recently one involving earlier versions of the Apple devices. A jury in that case awarded $302 million that a judge later increased to $439.7 million. Kendall Larsen, CEO of VirnetX, said the damages, which were based on sales of more than 400 million Apple devices, were "fair." "The evidence was clear," Larsen said after the verdict was announced. "Tell the truth and you don't have to worry about anything." For VirnetX, the jury verdict in its favor could be a short-lived victory. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board has said the patents are invalid, in cases that are currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington. The Federal Circuit, which handles all patent appeals, declined to put this trial on hold, saying it was so far along that a verdict would come before a final validity decision.
Microsoft

Microsoft: We'll Help Customers Create Patents But We Get a License To Use Them (zdnet.com) 52

Microsoft outlined a new intellectual-property policy on Thursday for co-developed technology that embraces open source and seeks to assure customers it won't run off with their innovations. From a report: The shared innovation principles build on its Azure IP Advantage program for helping customers combat patent trolls. The new principles for co-developed innovation cover ownership of existing technology, customer ownership of new patents, support for open source, licensing new IP back to Microsoft, software portability, transparency, and learning. Microsoft president Brad Smith says the principles aim to assuage customers' fears that Microsoft may end up using co-developed technology to rival them.

[...] In return, Microsoft gets to license back any of the patents in the new technology but promises to limit their use to improving its own platform technologies, such as Azure, Azure AI services, Office 365, Windows, Xbox, and HoloLens. It also reserves the right to use "code and tools developed by or on behalf of Microsoft that are intended to provide technical assistance to customers in their respective businesses."

China

US' Proposed China Tariffs Would Target Robotics, Satellites (engadget.com) 208

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The U.S. Trade Representative has published the list of Chinese products that would be subject to its proposed tech tariffs, and there are a few clear themes. The move would hike the costs of about 1,300 products, including industrial robots, communication satellites, spacecraft and a slew of semiconductors.The aim, as before, is to punish China for allegedly goading American companies into transferring their patents and technology to Chinese firms for the sake of claiming economic superiority. The USTR claimed the proposed tariffs would stymie Chinese plans while "minimizing the impact" on the American economy. The tariffs are still subject to a 60-day notice process that would include public comments until May 11th and a public hearing on May 15th.
Privacy

Our Devices May Listen More Attentively, Patents Filed By Google and Amazon Suggest (nytimes.com) 50

Amazon and Google, the leading sellers of smart speakers, say their AI-powered assistants record and process audio only after users trigger them by pushing a button or uttering a phrase like "Hey, Alexaâ or âoeO.K., Google." But each company has filed patent applications, many of them still under consideration, that outline an array of possibilities for how devices like these could monitor more of what users say and do (the link may be paywalled), The New York Times reports. From the report: That information could then be used to identify a person's desires or interests, which could be mined for ads and product recommendations. In one set of patent applications, Amazon describes how a "voice sniffer algorithm" could be used on an array of devices, like tablets and e-book readers, to analyze audio almost in real time when it hears words like "love," "bought" or "dislike." A diagram included with the application illustrated how a phone call between two friends could result in one receiving an offer for the San Diego Zoo and the other seeing an ad for a Wine of the Month Club membership.

Some patent applications from Google, which also owns the smart home product maker Nest Labs, describe how audio and visual signals could be used in the context of elaborate smart home setups. One application details how audio monitoring could help detect that a child is engaging in "mischief" at home by first using speech patterns and pitch to identify a child's presence, one filing said. A device could then try to sense movement while listening for whispers or silence, and even program a smart speaker to "provide a verbal warning." A separate application regarding personalizing content for people while respecting their privacy noted that voices could be used to determine a speaker's mood using the "volume of the user's voice, detected breathing rate, crying and so forth," and medical condition "based on detected coughing, sneezing and so forth."

Google

Google Is Buying Innovative Camera Startup Lytro For $40 Million (techcrunch.com) 36

According to TechCrunch, Google is acquiring Lytro, the imaging startup that began as a ground-breaking camera company for consumers before pivoting to use its depth-data, light-field technology in VR. From the report: One source described the deal as an "asset sale" with Lytro going for no more than $40 million. Another source said the price was even lower: $25 million and that it was shopped around -- to Facebook, according to one source; and possibly to Apple, according to another. A separate person told us that not all employees are coming over with the company's technology: some have already received severance and parted ways with the company, and others have simply left. Assets would presumably also include Lytro's 59 patents related to light-field and other digital imaging technology. The sale would be far from a big win for Lytro and its backers. The startup has raised just over $200 million in funding and was valued at around $360 million after its last round in 2017, according to data from PitchBook. Its long list of investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Foxconn, GSV, Greylock, NEA, Qualcomm Ventures and many more. Rick Osterloh, SVP of hardware at Google, sits on Lytro's board. A pricetag of $40 million is not quite the exit that was envisioned for the company when it first launched its camera concept, and in the words of investor Ben Horowitz, "blew my brains to bits."
Microsoft

Microsoft Brings Native HEIF Support to Windows 10 (thurrott.com) 152

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft is bringing support for the new HEIF image format to Windows 10. First popularized by Apple with iOS 11, HEIF is a new image format that uses less storage space while preserving image quality. The new image format is used by default on Apple's iPhone X and other devices running iOS 11. While Microsoft's online services like OneDrive already supported HEIF since the release of iOS 11, Windows 10 didn't natively support the new format as of yet. But with the upcoming Redstone 4 update -- possibly called the Spring Creators Update -- the Microsoft Photos app in Windows 10 will support HEIF by default. Further reading: CNET.
Patents

Apple Files Patent For a Crumb-Resistant MacBook Keyboard (digitaltrends.com) 91

According to a patent application made public on Thursday, March 8, Apple could be developing a new MacBook keyboard designed to prevent crumbs and dust from getting those super-shallow MacBook keys stuck. "Liquid ingress around the keys into the keyboard can damage electronics. Residues from such liquids may corrode or block electrical contacts, getting in the way of key movement and so on," the patent application reads. Digital Trends reports: The application goes on to describe how those problems might be remedied: With the careful application of gaskets, brushes, wipers, or flaps that block gaps beneath keycaps. One solution would include a membrane beneath each key, effectively insulating the interior of the keyboard from the exterior, while another describes using each keypress as a "bellows" to force contaminants out of the keyboard. "A keyboard assembly [could include] a substrate, a key cap, and a guard structure extending from the key cap that funnels contaminants away from the movement mechanism," the patent application reads.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Files Patent Infringement Lawsuit Against Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram (reuters.com) 87

BlackBerry on Tuesday filed patent infringement lawsuit against Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram in Los Angeles Federal court. In a statement, BlackBerry said: We have a lot of respect for Facebook and the value they've placed on messaging capabilities, some of which were invented by BlackBerry. As a cybersecurity and embedded software leader, BlackBerry's view is that Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp could make great partners in our drive toward a securely connected future, and we continue to hold this door open to them. However, we have a strong claim that Facebook has infringed on our intellectual property, and after several years of dialogue, we also have an obligation to our shareholders to pursue appropriate legal remedies.
Patents

'Nobody Cares Who Was First, and Nobody Cares Who Copied Who': Marco Arment on Defending Your App From Copies and Clones (marco.org) 169

Marco Arment: App developers sometimes ask me what they should do when their features, designs, or entire apps are copied by competitors. Legally, there's not a lot you can do about it: Copyright protects your icon, images, other creative resources, and source code. You automatically have copyright protection, but it's easy to evade with minor variations. App stores don't enforce it easily unless resources have been copied exactly. Trademarks protect names, logos, and slogans. They cover minor variations as well, and app stores enforce trademarks more easily, but they're costly to register and only apply in narrow areas.

Only assholes get patents. They can be a huge PR mistake, and they're a fool's errand: even if you get one ($20,000+ later), you can't afford to use it against any adversary big enough to matter. Don't be an asshole or a fool. Don't get software patents. If someone literally copied your assets or got too close to your trademarked name, you need to file takedowns or legal complaints, but that's rarely done by anyone big enough to matter. If a competitor just adds a feature or design similar to one of yours, you usually can't do anything. You can publicly call out a copy, but you won't come out of it looking good. [...] Nobody else will care as much as you do. Nobody cares who was first, and nobody cares who copied who. The public won't defend you.

Businesses

'Troll' Loses Cloudflare Lawsuit, Has Weaponized Patent Invalidated (arstechnica.com) 49

A federal judge in San Francisco has unequivocally ruled against a non-practicing entity that had sued Cloudflare for patent infringement. From a report: The judicial order effectively ends the case that Blackbird -- which Cloudflare had dubbed a "patent troll" -- had brought against the well-known security firm and content delivery network. "Abstract ideas are not patentable," US District Judge Vincent Chhabria wrote in a Monday order. The case revolved around US Patent No. 6,453,335, which describes providing a "third party data channel" online. When the case was filed in May 2017, the invention claims it can incorporate third-party data into an existing Internet connection "in a convenient and flexible way."

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